What is a mirrorless camera?

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Today, there are hundreds of cameras to choose from for people who would like to give photography a go, and they come in various sizes and prices and they can produce different quality images depending on the technology and capabilities the particular camera has. There are the mobile phones, compact “point and shoot” cameras, bridge cameras, DSLRs, Medium Format cameras, and mirrorless cameras – wait, what?

Those who know the “anatomy” of a traditional SLR camera would find the idea of “mirrorless cameras” quite a different concept? Simply put, a mirrorless camera is the cross between a DSLR and a compact camera, taking the good bits from both. This is a digital camera that has interchangeable lenses and also goes by the following names:

• Mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (MILC)

• Hybrid camera

• Compact system camera (CSC)

A Brief History of the Mirrorless Camera

Mirrorless cameras were introduced to the market in 2008 but only became more popular in the market in 2011.

The manufacturers of these cameras aimed to provide high performance cameras that function like DSLRs but without the bulk. Let’s face it, DSLRs are great, but when you’re only starting in the world of photography or if you simply want something more convenient to bring around, say in your bag or pocket, a smaller camera like point and shoot ones are more appealing. There are drawbacks to point-and-shoot cameras, but the convenience that their size brings greatly adds to the appeal.

A mirrorless camera is the perfect transition camera for those who want to take better photos while having the convenience of a handier camera. These hybrids have been gaining steady popularity, and because of the interchangeable lenses that they offer matched with the smaller size, they are bound to give bigger and bulkier DSLRs a run for their money. Many professionals are now adopting mirrorless cameras as their main cameras, only uses DSLRs for very specific jobs.

Pros of Using Mirrorless Cameras

Mirrorless cameras may seem like a strange device if you’re used to a DSLR or a camera system that has mirrors in it, but there are actually quite a lot of pros in using mirrorless cameras. Here are the top reasons why mirrorless cameras can give those full-bodied DSLRs a run for their money:

  • Overall smaller body – A smaller body is definitely lighter and less bulky. You can take the biggest mirrorless camera and place it next to the smallest DSLR and you’ll see that the
    mirrorless camera is still a fair bit smaller. This feature makes the mirrorless cameras more desirable if you want something easy to grab and hassle free to bring along. It also doesn’t make you look as conspicuous as you would with a DSLR, with it’s big lenses and larger body.
  • Less noise, less shake – The absence of mirrors makes your camera less noisy, and you’ll only hear the shutter clicking when you use a mirrorless system. Taking away the mirrors also contributes to less shake. Ever read about “image stabilisation” on DSLRs? Well, they’re there because mirrors tend to give the DSLR camera’s body more vibrations when it operates which may result in slight blurring in your photos, especially when doing long exposures. Other people may not be too particular about it, but really, less shake means crisp and clean photos which are definitely better.
  • Easier maintenance – Less fragile parts in your camera make it easier to handle and therefore easier to clean. Just take the lens off and you can clean the sensor. With no mirror and the moving parts for it, there is less that could go wrong with it.
  • High speed capture rate – DSLRs have this problem because the mirror tends to limit their capture rate. Because of the absence of mirrors, these smaller cameras may actually be faster and quieter than their bulky counterparts.

Cons of Using Mirrorless Cameras

Despite the many pros that a mirrorless camera has, it also comes with some limitations that you may want to consider if you’re investing in this type of camera:

  • Battery life – This is one of the main disadvantages of mirrorless cameras. Since a lot of them have EVF (Electronic View Finder) implementations and a bunch of other modern features, it takes a toll on your battery life, especially as the batteries are generally smaller than those you would get in a DSLR. For travellers who don’t have access to power, this may be a disadvantage when your camera suddenly gets a low battery. Fortunately, the batteries tend to be cheaper than DSLR batteries so it’s a lot more affordable to have several backup batteries with you.
  • Subject tracking problems – This is a disadvantage if you’re into sports or wildlife photography because mirrorless cameras are a bit weak, compared to DSLRs, with subjects in motion. Further developments are still being done to address this issue though and I’m sure it won’t be long before it won’t be a problem.

DSLRs versus Mirrorless Cameras

A DSLR definitely comes with the capability to get great quality photos, but you would have to deal with the noise, size, shake, and often, the more expensive price tag. A mirrorless camera on the other hand is a little more affordable, allows you take great photos suitable for the professional market, and is also more convenient with it’s smaller size and weight. DSLRs may still be best for professional photographers, but for hobbyists who would like a high-performance compact like camera for photography, mirrorless cameras can do the trick.

So if you are in the market for a new camera, don’t rule out the mirrorless option. You may well be impressed. I was!

About Author

A keen amateur photographer, Garry has been teaching people photography for over 5 years but is also always learning. Garry enjoys many types of photography but prefers Street Photography and Candid Event Photography All content is Copyright © 2017 Garry Finch. All Rights Reserved.

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  1. Pingback: From Wildlife To Street Portraits | Photography Basics

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